In Honor of Dad on Veteran’s Day

I’d like to commemorate this Veteran’s Day by sharing three pieces from “Phases of Dad,” a poem suite I wrote about my Dad that appeared in my book, “Shades of Green”. I have since added a new piece, which appears here for the first time. Robert Yehling Sr. (1928-1995) served proudly in the Marine Corps for 20 years, fought in Korea and Vietnam, commanded troops in Vietnam, and gave his two sons and daughter valuable lessons in life that have served us since. Hope you enjoy.


Dad walks to the house

behind my house,

seized by curiosity over

the Vietnamese woman and her American husband.

He walks with such humble, dignified steps

my old man, turning gray

in the spirit of the graced.

He spends an hour with the woman, Thanh,

my old man who taught me to respect everyone

but privately never quite trusted any Oriental

or ate a bowl of rice or Chinese food again

after ‘Nam.

An hour later, Dad walks back, his wide smile

failing to hide pools of sadness in his eyes,

twenty years of animosity releasing.

“She told me all about what happened

after we left ‘Nam. Makes you want to cry.”



As months and years pass

the tone of your voice

fades into wind

and your green eyes

are absorbed by trees

but in my walk

my duty, my desire

to get it done, advance

to a greater capability,

I wear you as you wore

your uniform —

saluting life.

Your passing links us closer together,

old warrior soul.

All that remains is for me

to finish the dance

and join you as your friend

in Light.

I’ll know where to look:

Straight in the Eye.



An eagle passed by

with his wife,

looking at a cafe menu

taped to a sidewalk window.

The short silver hair — the eyes —

the smile — the way your eyebrows raised

behind his sunglasses —


Ten minutes you were there,

all of you … the way you folded your arms

across your chest. I looked

away, tears in my eyes,

seeing you again, on Earth.

I shook my head, looked over once more —

You were flying again.


TUCSON MARATHON: December 2004

You would’ve loved the plan, Dad:

Run each five-mile segment at thirty-nine minutes,

tough it out the final two kilometers,

and I’m in the dream marathon — Boston.

Deep in the desert, clicking off the miles,

hawks and snowcapped mountains

kissing heaven in its puffy cloud descent,

stride sure as a parade march,

focus no further out than the next mile,

getting it done …


A scent in the Catalina desert breeze,

aftershave I haven’t smelled in ten years,

a buzz in the ear — strange —

words in formation:

“You keep up like this, buddy,

and you’re going to Boston.

Perfect time. You’re on perfect time.

The race of your life, buddy.”

No one ever called me buddy.

Except you, Dad.

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